The popularity of women’s basketball has recently exploded thanks to a simple hand gesture that brought two players, Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark, into the national spotlight. For those who may have missed it, during a regular season game between the University of Iowa and LSU, Caitlin Clark made the “you can’t see me” gesture—popularized by John Cena—to hype herself up against her opponent. Throughout the tournament, Clark continued to do this after her most spectacular plays. In the final match-up between the two teams, Angel Reese made the same gesture to Clark after LSU’s victory, and was subsequently labeled “classless” and “unsportsmanlike” by the media, despite Clark receiving praise for doing the exact same thing earlier.

Recently, Jill Biden expressed her intent to invite Iowa to the White House, a gesture that has never before been extended to a losing team in the history of White House celebrations. Interestingly, San Diego State’s men’s basketball team, which is predominantly Black (something they have in common with LSU, while Iowa is majority white), lost to UConn in the men’s NCAA tournament the day after the LSU-Iowa match-up, yet was not afforded the same courtesy from Dr. Biden. This is not only unfair to LSU but also puts Iowa in an uncomfortable position, essentially demonstrating that white people receive more even when they do less.

The media’s simultaneous criticism of Reese and lauding of Clark is a weak and biased argument that reflects poorly on those making such claims. After all, both players made the same gesture, and it was all in the spirit of the game. It is interesting to note how NBA players are celebrated for their competitive trash-talking, while female players are often criticized for doing the same thing. In this case, Reese was faced with ruthless attacks not because of her actions, but because she is a Black woman. 

It is refreshing to see female players stand up against such unfair treatment, with Clark defending Reese in the media and Reese holding her ground and defending herself on social media. In a recent press interview, Reese stated, “I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing. So this is for the girls that look like me.” Players like Reese will undoubtedly change the standards of women’s basketball, and I am excited to see what the future holds for her and her peers.

This situation, while absurdly inequitable, has had its upside as it has allowed fans to get to know the players on a more personal level and see their personalities shine through. The competition is a crucial part of the game, and when it is eliminated, it can become tedious. In the end, this situation reminds us that basketball is basketball, and we watch it for grit and competition, not for political pawns.